The blog "Shameless Popery" is run by one Joe Heschmeyer, a "conservative" member of the Vatican II sect. A friend of mine brought my attention to a post he had written on June 3, 2014 entitled, "Sedevacantism is Impossible: How We Can Know Francis is Pope." Mr. Heschmeyer, by all indications, is an intelligent and thoughtful man. However, reading this post had me shaking my head at how someone ostensibly knowledgeable could write a piece that is filled with blatant misrepresentations of sedevacantism. Are such people culpably ignorant, or just being deceitful? I don't mean to sound uncharitable, but these are really the only two options and I don't know which one is better to believe. I commit no fallacy of the "false dilemma" (i.e., something is falsely claimed to be an "either/or" situation) because if anyone did honest research on the topic, they would have to know what sedevacantists (True Catholics) believe in regard to the state of the papacy. It is certainly not reflected in Mr. Heschmeyer's post. I will break down his attempt to salvage the "papacy" of Bergoglio, and demonstrate where he is wrong. Anyone wishing to read his post in its entirety may find it here: http://shamelesspopery.com/sedevacantism-is-impossible-how-we-can-know-francis-is-pope/.
First point of "Shameless Popery" (hereinafter "SP"): A Validly Elected Pope Isn't an Antipope.
SP contends, "...my point is that even if radical Traditionalists were right about Pope Francis being a heretic, he wouldn’t cease to be pope." Starting with this false principle, SP then goes into a discussion of the Great Western Schism when there were multiple papal claimants and ends by declaring, "The common thread in all of these cases is that it turns on whether a particular man was validly elected to the Chair of Peter. A man isn’t declared an antipope simply because you think he’s wrong, or that he’s doing a bad job."
This is wrong on several grounds:
- A heretic is barred by Divine Law from obtaining the papacy. The pre-Vatican II canonists affirm that it is not canon law, but rather God's Law that prevents a heretic such as Bergoglio from obtaining the office of pope in the first place.
Proof: According to canonist Coronata, "III. Appointment of the office of the Primacy. 1. What is required by divine law for this appointment: … Also required for validity is that the appointment be of a member of the Church. Heretics and apostates (at least public ones) are therefore excluded." (Institutiones 1:312; Emphasis mine)
According to Wernz-Vidal: "Those capable of being validly elected are all who are not prohibited by divine law or by an invalidating ecclesiastical law… Those who are barred as incapable of being validly elected are all women, children who have not reached the age of reason; also, those afflicted with habitual insanity, the unbaptized, heretics, schismatics…" (Jus Canonicum 1:415; Emphasis mine).
Bergoglio was a heretic much prior to his alleged "election" in 2013. According to the Anti-Deformation League: "Cardinal Bergoglio maintained a close relationship with the Jewish community in Argentina. He has celebrated various Jewish holidays with the Argentinian Jewish community, including Chanukah where he lit a candle on the menorah, attended a Buenos Aires synagogue for Slichot, a pre-Rosh Hashana service, the Jewish New Year, as well as a commemoration of Kristallnacht, the wave of violent Nazi attacks against Jews before World War II." (See https://www.adl.org/news/press-releases/adl-congratulates-new-pope-francis; Emphasis mine).
"Cardinal" Bergoglio also participated in an ecumenical service wherein a Protestant minister "laid hands on him" as a religious action: "...then-Cardinal Bergoglio—metropolitan archbishop of Buenos Aires, primate of the Catholic Church in Argentina, and president of the Argentinian Bishops’ Conference—is kneeling, head bowed, between Father Raniero Cantalamessa and Catholic Charismatic leader Matteo Calisi, with Evangelical Pastor Carlos Mraida extending his hand toward the cardinal’s head, as the people invoke the Holy Spirit over him." (See http://www.catholicworldreport.com/2014/09/05/francis-ecumenism-and-the-common-witness-to-christ/; Emphasis mine).
Participating in false religious worship, according to the approved canonists and theologians, is a manifestation of heresy and/or apostasy. According to theologian Merkelbach, external heresy consists not only in what someone says, but also dictis vel factis, that is "signs, deeds, and the omission of deeds." (Merkelbach, Summa Theologiae Moralis, 1:746.)
Therefore, Traditionalists don't reject Bergoglio because he lost his office, but because he never could have obtained it in the first place! The Church does indeed teach loss of papal office through profession of heresy, but we need not even go down that path. Bergoglio was a heretic barred by Divine Law from ever becoming pope. Moreover, this is not a case of "Bergoglio acting badly," but one of a manifest heretic incapable of obtaining the office. The analogy to the Great Western Schism is therefore inapposite because none of the claimants were manifest heretics, so the only thing needed to do was try and determine which papal claimant had the valid election.
I would be remiss if I didn't also mention the decree of Pope Paul IV, Cum ex Apostolatus Officio of 1559. The pontiff decreed that if ever it should ever appear that someone who was elected Roman Pontiff had beforehand "deviated from the Catholic Faith or fallen into any heresy," his election, even with the agreement and unanimous consent of all the cardinals would be "null, legally invalid and void."
Second point of SP: Being a Heretic Doesn’t Make the Pope an Antipope
It sure does. As St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote, "If ever a pope, as a private person, should fall into heresy, he would at once fall from the pontificate."( Oeuvres Complètes. 9:232). This was the unanimous teaching of the approved theologians and canonists before Vatican II.
SP then rehashes the cases of Pope John XXII and Pope Honorius to "prove" that a heretic can be pope. Before I quote what was written, I want to qualify exactly what is required regarding heresy and the loss of papal office. The theologians are clear that if the pope, as a private teacher, becomes a manifest (or notorious) and contumacious (willfully disobedient) heretic, he then immediately falls from office by Divine Law without any ecclesiastical declaration. See if you can spot the problem with what SP writes regarding Popes John XXII and Honorius:
...Pope John XXII (1316-1334), who had a series of sermons in which he denied that Saints enjoy the Beatific Vision prior the Final Judgment. At the time, this was not formal heresy, inasmuch as the doctrine was dogmatically defined only by John’s successor, Benedict XII, in 1336. Theologians corrected the pope’s error, and John had the humility to retract his views. Being wrong on this doctrinal issue didn’t mean that John ceased to be pope. He was just a pope in error. (When sedevacantists refer to “Saint Thomas Aquinas,” they unwittingly concede this, for it was Pope John XXII who canonized Aquinas; if John wasn’t pope, Aquinas isn’t canonized). (Emphasis mine)
Pope John XXII was not denying anything yet a dogma, nor was he contumacious. According to a readily available source (The Catholic Encyclopedia online), "In a consistory held on 3 January, 1334, the pope explicitly declared that he had never meant to teach aught contrary to Holy Scripture or the rule of faith and in fact had not intended to give any decision whatever. Before his death he withdrew his former opinion, and declared his belief that souls separated from their bodies enjoyed in heaven the Beatific Vision." He therefore was not a heretic as the question was open for discussion among the theologians, and even if, ad arguendo, he was--he still lacked the qualification of being contumacious as he never claimed to be definitively teaching anything, and declared himself open to correction by the Magisterium when he preached his sermons and wrote on the topic prior to his election to the papacy.
As to Pope Honorius:
The second is Pope Honorius (625-638), who has the ignoble distinction of being the only pope that’s anathematized. As pope, Honorius permitted the spread of the Monothelite heresy...And guess what? Honorius didn’t cease to be pope. Leo didn’t declare his predecessor an antipope, or nullify all of his papal decrees on the grounds that they weren’t issued by the real pope, etc.
Honorius wrote several letters relating to the Monothelite heresy (i.e.,Christ had only one will, the Divine Will), for which he was later accused, variously, of being a heretic himself or allowing heresy to go unchecked. According to theologian Hurter, "the letters of Honorius were unknown until the death of the Pontiff and Sergius" [a bishop]. (Medulla Theologiae Dogmaticae, 360; words in brackets mine). Since the letters were not made public until after his death, even if they were heretical, he would have been an "occult" (i.e., "secret") heretic, lacking the qualification of being "manifest" necessary for loss of office.
Third Point of SP: This Heretical Antipope Theory is Logically Impossible
Here SP attempts to refute the position of another blogger [Skojec] on the possibility of a future Council or pope declaring Bergoglio an antipope. The point ends by stating, "In this vision of history, none of these men [Roncalli to Bergoglio] were really popes, and had no more authority to appoint Cardinals than do you or me. So if Skojec was right, we would not only be left without a pope, but without any way of ever having a pope. In that case, there’s no possible future pope or future College of Cardinals capable of declaring Vatican II a false Council, because there’s no possibility of a future pope or College of Cardinals at all. There’s simply no more Church."
Wrong. According to theologian Dorsch: "The Church therefore is a society that is essentially monarchical. But this does not prevent the Church, for a short time after the death of a pope, OR EVEN FOR MANY YEARS, from remaining deprived of her head. [vel etiam per plures annos capite suo destituta manet]. Her monarchical form also remains intact in this state.…
Thus the Church is then indeed a headless body.… Her monarchical form of government remains, though then in a different way — that is, it remains incomplete and to be completed. The ordering of the whole to submission to her Primate is present, even though actual submission is not…For this reason, the See of Rome is rightly said to remain after the person sitting in it has died — for the See of Rome consists essentially in the rights of the Primate. These rights are an essential and necessary element of the Church. With them, moreover, the Primacy then continues, at least morally. The perennial physical presence of the person of the head, however, [perennitas autem physica personis principis] is not so strictly necessary." (de Ecclesia 2:196–7; Emphasis mine).
The most probable way of restoring the papacy is an "imperfect General Council." Some pre-Vatican II theologians pondered such a Council in the absence of cardinals. Indeed, theologian Van Noort pondered it as late as 1956 (See Dogmatic Theology 2: 276).
Theologian Cajetan wrote: "...by exception and by supplementary manner this power [electing a pope], corresponds to the Church and to the Council, either by absence of Cardinal Electors, or because they are doubtful, or the election itself is uncertain, as it happened at the time of the schism." (See De Comparatione Auctoritatis Papae et Concilii)
Theologian Billot wrote: "When it would be necessary to proceed with the election, if it is impossible to follow the regulations of papal law, as was the case during the Great Western Schism, one can accept, without difficulty, that the power of election could be transferred to a...Council...Because natural law prescribes that, in such cases, the power of a superior is passed to the immediate inferior because this is absolutely necessary for the survival of the society and to avoid the tribulations of extreme need." (See De Ecclesia Christi).
Then again, we may be living in the end times when Christ will return. In any case, SP's contention is false.
Fourth Point of SP: Skojec’s [a blogger who's "flirting" with sedevacantism] Proposal Flirts with Heresy
SP quotes the Ecumenical Council of Constance which condemned heretic Jan Hus' proposition:
"20. If the pope is wicked, and especially if he is foreknown to damnation, then he is a devil like Judas the apostle, a thief and a son of perdition and is not the head of the holy church militant since he is not even a member of it." This is correct--a wicked [morally corrupt] pope remains pope. No Traditionalist denies this fact. We are not talking about being evil, but being heretical. SP is talking about apples when we talk about oranges.
Fifth point of SP: If We Can’t Be Sure Who (If Anyone) is Pope, Catholicism is Chaos
"...[what] sedevacantists [teach] would mean that a validly-elected pope could, at any moment, teach heresy and secretly cease to be pope." The Church teaches no such thing as demonstrated above. The heresy must be manifest and contumacious.
What I wrote in this week's post is not something new. The position of the Church on heresy and loss of (or inability to gain) office is very clear. I am certainly not the first or the only person to make these facts public. Since the late 1990s, sedevacantism has been more and more vocal as it gains more converts to True Catholicism. Can Joe Heschmeyer be oblivious to all this information? The only thing our opponents can do is repeat misrepresentations (or even lies) and hope the unsuspecting will believe it to be so. I'll pray for Joe Heschmeyer that "...you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (St. John 8:32).